B.S. Detector

I thought this was great advice from the Wall Street Journal on Tuesday March 20th, 2018.  It reminded me of Greg Koukl’s Colombo Tactic:

  1. What do you mean by that?
  2. How did you come to that conclusion?

Here is the article:

Fine-Tune Your B.S. Detector: You’ll Need It

In the digital age, misinformation—from nonsense to lies—spreads faster than ever and is becoming an area of serious research

By Elizabeth Bernstein

B.S. is a form of persuasion that aims to impress the listener while employing a blatant disregard for the truth, the researchers explained. It can involve language, statistics and charts and appears everywhere from politics to science.

Of course this isn’t new. But false information moves faster and farther these days, thanks to social media. A new study conducted by researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, published earlier this month in the journal Science, analyzed the spread of 126,000 rumors tweeted by 3 million people over more than 10 years and found that false news spreads faster than truth. “We have reached epidemic levels of information pollution, and we need to do something about it,”

How Can You Spot B.S.?

Check the source. Is this person an expert or in a position to know the information? Why is he or she telling me? What does the person have to gain? “Sometimes it’s just a coolness factor,” says Jevin West, a professor of information science at the University of Washington, who teaches a class in how to spot B.S. in data.

If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Remember that we all suffer from confirmation bias—we’re more likely to believe something that confirms what we already think or want. “It’s hardest to spot B.S. we agree with,” says Gordon Pennycook, a postgraduate fellow at Yale who studies B.S. “Question it if it supports your own beliefs.”

Ask questions. Research shows people are more likely to B.S. when they feel they can get away with it. “Ask them simply: ‘Why do you think that? How do you know that is true?’” says John Petrocelli, a social psychologist and associate professor of psychology at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, N.C., who studies B.S. “This will get them thinking critically.”

Don’t trust your gut. People who pause and think about whether information is true are better able to detect false information, research shows. “Rely on your prior knowledge,” says Lisa Fazio, an assistant professor of psychology and human development at Vanderbilt University.

Ask for evidence. This is different than an explanation, which people can continue to spin. Facts don’t lie—but check them to make sure they are real.

Pay attention to people who discount evidence. “I don’t care what the experts say” is a red flag that the person is using B.S.

Stay offline when you’re tired. Research shows we’re more vulnerable to false claims when our cognitive resources—that is, brain power—are depleted.

 

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